I am convinced that ramen is a comfort food, whether it is made fresh or the instant 2-minute noodles that most of us are more familiar with. Even the instant ramen can be made conveniently, I long to eat the fresh ramen sometimes. Just to eat a bowl of ramen, my husband and I have to drive an hour, and it is not guaranteed that bowl of ramen is satisfying! So, I take it as a challenge to make ramen from scratch although it is daunting even to think about it as the whole process is loooong and tedious.
During my recent trip to Japan, I bought the book ラーメン技術教本 “The techniques of making ramen“. I must say that the book offers a glimpse on how a ramen restaurant operates and how they make their signature dish. It is more suited for someone who is thinking to start a ramen restaurant than for home-cook chefs. The recipes are in huge quantities and the equipment used are more for commercial purposes. Although I find it impractical to follow the recipe in exact quantities or even follow some of the methods taught in the book (as I need special equipment for that purpose), it has given me a rough idea on how I can make ramen at home. As you can see, some recipes calls for lots of ingredients! Gosh! I am definitely not buying so many ingredients just to make few bowls of ramen!!
So, I decided to use whatever I already have in my food pantry and fridge to create my version of miso ramen!
I made the ramen in 3 parts, i.e. 1. Miso broth & chashu 2. Ramen egg and 3. Noodles. (NOTE: The measurement for all ingredients are an approximation)
1. Miso broth & Chashu – This is partially made a day earlier
Prepare 3 – 4 kelp (konbu), 2 cups of bonito flakes (katsuobushi), 3 – 4 dried shitake mushroom and 1 cup of anchovies in a large bowl. Add in water until full and leave it overnight.
In another large pot, place in vegetables of your choice. Use the vegetables that you might use to make vegetable stock. I use 3 carrots, 1 yellow onion, 1 whole garlic, ginger (approximately 5cm in length), a bunch of scallions, 1/4 napa (long cabbage) and 1/2 iceberg lettuce which I can find from my fridge.
Meanwhile, prepare boneless pork of your choice such as pork shoulder or pork bellyto make chashu. It is good to choose the pork with good portion of fats as it keeps the pork moist even after long hours of cooking. Another word for chashu is braised pork which is different from the Chinese charsiu (barbequed pork). There are several ways to make chashu but since I am making the broth for the ramen, I’ll just cook the chashu in the broth rather than cook it separately. By doing this, it will enhance the flavor of the broth.
I use boneless pork loin since that’s what I have in the fridge. I cut it in half and use strings to tie securely around the pork loin. Irregardless of which part of pork you use, it is crucial to tie the pork with strings to achieve a nice-looking log shape and for the cooked meat to stay intact. Having said that, the meat doesn’t crumble easily when I slice it with a knife.
Place the pork into the pot with the vegetables and cook for at least 2 hours on medium heat.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce to marinate chashu and ramen eggs. You will need 5 – 6 cups of dashi, 1 cup of mirin, 1 cup of soy sauce and 4 tablespoon of white sugar. To prepare 5 cups of dashi, use 1 packet of dashi pack and follow the instruction on the packaging to cook it. Or use a combination of kelp (konbu) and bonito flakes (katsuobushi) or a combination of dried shitake mushroom and anchovies. For more detailed explanation on preparing dashi, check out this link How To Make Katsudon At Home.
Combine 2 cups of dashi, 1 cup of mirin, 1 cup of soy sauce and 4 tablespoon of white sugar together. If the sugar doesn’t dissolve, heat the mixture on low heat. This mixture is known as tsuyu (つゆ) which is widely used in Japanese cooking. Set aside 1.5 – 2 cups of tsuyu for ramen eggs. Combine the remaining tsuyu and 2.5 cups of dashi together.
After 2 hours, the broth will reduce by half. Turn off the heat and let it cool down.
Transfer the pork to the marinated sauce and chill in the fridge overnight. If the pork is not fully immerse in the sauce, turn the pork after several hours so that it is fully marinated. If it is marinated much longer, the chashu will taste better. As for the vegetable stock, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate overnight. That’s the photo of the vegetable stock after refrigerate – the fats from the pork has solidify. Don’t discard the fats as it enhance the flavor of the broth for the ramen. It doesn’t seem healthy but it’s a comfort food, right?
Combine the vegetable stock and the mixture of dry ingredients with the water in a large pot. Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes.
Turn off the heat. Use a food processor to blend the mixture to thicken the broth and provides a stronger taste. Then, use a strainer to strain the broth in another pot. Set aside for later use.
Toast 1 cup of sesame seeds in an oven or on a pan over the stove. Let it cool down and use a food processor to blend 1/2 cup of the sesame seeds. The remaining sesame seeds is used as a topping for ramen.
Then add 1 cup of mirin, 1/4 – 1/3 cup of kikkoman soy sauce, 3 -4 tablespoon of sesame paste, 1 -2 tablespoon of white miso paste, 1 – 2 tablespoon of red miso paste and 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of cayenne (optional) to the broth. For a milder and more delicate flavor, reduce the measurement of the soy sauce and miso paste. For a kick of spice, cayenne can be added. On a side note, there are different types of miso paste and it can be easily distinguished by its color. White miso paste is more of a beige color and milder in taste while red miso paste is reddish brown and stronger in flavor.
Cook on low heat for 10 -15 minutes. Turn off heat and keep warm. The miso broth can make about 8 – 10 bowls of ramen! I kept the remaining broth in the freezer as I don’t intend to make it anytime soon.
Take the marinated chashu out from the fridge. Remove the string and cut a few slices as one of the toppings for ramen. As for the remaining chashu, I place it back with the marinated sauce and store in fridge. There are other ways to use the chashu and the marinated sauce too! Personally, I slice the chashu, pour the marinated sauce on the sliced charsiu and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and reheat it. It goes well with rice too!
2. Ramen eggs – Made a day earlier
Ramen eggs known as Ajitsuke Tamago (味付け卵) is tasty even on its own. The egg yolk is partially cooked so it is slightly gooey and custard-like texture. Most importantly, it is simple to make.
The ingredients are 4 cage-free eggs, 1/2 cups of dashi and 1.5 – 2 cups of tsuyu (which has been prepared earlier). Combine the dashi and tsuyu together in a glass container. Prepare a medium pot half-filled with water, a dash of vinegar and salt. The vinegar helps to make the peeling of the egg shell a lot easier! Boil the water on medium heat. Once it boils, place in 4 cage-free eggs and cook for 6 minutes and 20 seconds. Do not cooked the eggs for more than 7 minutes! Turn off the heat and immediately tranfer the eggs into a bowl of cold water with ice and leave it for at least 10 minutes. Peel off the egg shell and transer to the marinated sauce. Chill in the fridge and let it marinate for at least 1 night.
3. Ramen Noodles
As it is difficult for me to get the ramen noodles, I have to make this myself. I decided to try the recipe from this blogger (Serious Eats). Since the dough is tough, it almost spoilt my pasta machine after running the dough through the machine the fourth or fitfth time! I am hoping that I don’t have to invest in a new pasta machine! However, I am satisfied with how the noodles turn out. It is springy and has a nice chewy texture that I am looking for.
Prepare a pot half-filled with boiling water and cook the noodles for 2 minutes. Use a strainer to drain the noodles and transfer to a bowl.
Finally, the BEST part – time to assemble and EAT! Add 2 ladle of miso broth with the noodle and add the toppings – chashu, ramen eggs and seaweed. Garnish with some toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallion (green onion).